I don’t know how this is possible, and I’m not going to question it at all, but all of my books were five star reads this month, and I am living. Granted, I reread two books that I know I love, including–get ready, this is the first of four times I will shout about it–preparing for THE GREAT SILMARILLION READALONG! ICYMI, here’s the announcement post for the readalong. The first post is up as of yesterday, and we’re cracking our books open now to begin reading! I’m insanely excited about this, so if you’re interested in The Silmarillion at all, do yourself a favor and check out the four posts coming out in March. And, while you wait for those to post, let’s get into February’s astonishing wrap-up!
WAIT I NEARLY FORGOT
BECAUSE YOU CLEARLY HAVEN’T SEEN IT ALL ACROSS THE INTERNET
This is your warning: I will have a complete meltdown over this in April.
Mini Book Reviews
🌈 LGBTQPIA+ characters
🔥 BIPOC authors
🌑 BIPOC characters
Dear Martin | Nic Stone 🔥🌑
Well, this tried to break me. I had to keep pausing in the first 50 pages because though I knew what kind of book I was getting into, it hadn’t quite set in yet, and there was just so much rage building up in those first 50 pages that I ended up putting it down for a day even though I could have easily finished it in one sitting. Well, I wouldn’t call it easy because I also had to pause just after the 100 page mark. (If you know, you know.) This was so difficult to read, but so, so necessary, and while it broke my heart, I’m also glad this was where I kicked off the month. It was appropriate, and it was expertly crafted, and I’m just so grateful that this book exists, but so furious that it still has to exist.
Felix Ever After | Kacen Callender 🌈🔥🌑
There was zero chance that I wasn’t rereading this for Valentine’s Day, I mean come on. I was having this weird moment, too, where I couldn’t remember why I loved it so much last year (all of last year was a blur, I’m lucky I even remember I read books), but about twenty pages in, and I was ready to fight anyone who as much as looked at Felix wrong, so yeah, I remember now, and this book is just glorious. GODS, THE FELIX/EZRA BEST FRIENDS TO LOVERS, THOUGH, JUST BURY ME WITH THIS BOOK. I love it so much, and I think it’s probably going to be the actual death of me, which I will thank it for, and I cannot wait to reread this wonderful book again.
Daughters of Nri | Reni K. Amayo 🔥🌑
This was such a journey of magic and wonder, and I can’t wait for the second one. The style really reminded me of Silvia Moreno-Garcia in Gods of Jade and Shadow, and it was such a lovely way to tell this tale. It felt, much like that, like I was sitting around a bonfire while a wild woman spun a tale almost too big to believe. The characters in this were just phenomenal, and I’m so curious where their story is going to go from here. The lore was incredible, and I felt so swept away by every single facet of this.
Tyler Johnson Was Here | Jay Coles 🔥🌑
This, much like Dear Martin, took me a minute to read because it was so painful and powerful all at once. I had to keep putting it down and taking several minutes to just breathe and work through all that had happened. It’s such an important book that talks about horrible things that are happening in everyday life to Black people, but that we so often ignore and pretend isn’t happening because it’s too uncomfortable for us to witness. But this kind of violence is happening, and it needs to be witnessed so that we can rise above it and demand that it stops. These stories need to be told so that they’ll never happen again, and Coles’ version of this story is impactful in all the biggest ways.
A Song of Wraiths & Ruin | Roseanne A. Brown 🔥🌑
I’m a sucker for the a blank of blank and black title formula, so I was pretty much guaranteed to love this one just based purely on that, which seems like nonsense, I know, but ya girl is very simple when it comes to her tastes, and thus, I can sometimes spy a five-star read from just the title, and yup. About one chapter in, and I was just hollering at the pages. This book was absolutely glorious. The lore alone would have knocked me clean off my feet, but then to add on fantastically written characters, a high stakes competition, and a truly kickass plot on top of that? SIGN ME UP FOR THE SEQUEL. Yes, I’ve already bought it, and no, I cannot believe that I have to wait to read it.
If It Makes You Happy | Claire Kann 🌈🔥🌑
Y’all, I ugly cried something awful over the end of this book. Like, full on sobbing into my pillow kind of crying, wow. I loved this right from the beginning when I meant to read only a quick fifty and ended up reading half of it, and it took some serious willpower not to just dive into the rest of it and sniffle & cackle my way through the entire thing. It reminded me so much of Gilmore Girls in that it was equal parts hilarious and absolutely heart-wrenching, and I loved every single damn page of it. I can’t wait to read Kann’s other book, and she will definitely be an author that I keep an eye out for in the future.
Lore | Alexandra Bracken 🌈
Look, I made a conscious choice to stay up two hours past my very strict bedtime (when you gotta get up at 6:30AM, midnight reading is not a thing) to finish this after arguing with myself for a full five minutes because I just could not fathom putting it down. I would have slept terribly and then thought about it all day at work until I finally had an opportunity to finish it. This was just incredible, and even if it hadn’t been exactly what I was looking for when I read it, I still would have loved it wholeheartedly. The way that Bracken modernized Greek mythology while still paying homage to the stories that we know and love was just outstanding, and not a single other person could have told this story but Lore. I was just enamored with her character, and I’m so glad that this was a single narrative (though I would have died to see more of THE KISS–iykyk). And that ending, ugh. It was honestly perfect. Everything about the execution of this plot was perfect, and I’m just so damn happy.
The Poet X | Elizabeth Acevedo 🔥🌑
I knew that Acevedo was a fantastic poet & writer, but I somehow managed to forget just how much I loved her other two books last year, so I wasn’t quite ready for the punch that this landed. And oh boy, does it deliver quite an impactful punch. I really tried not to read it too quickly, to savor the words in their intended poetic beauty, but Xiomara’s story was one that felt close to my own heart, that spoke directly back to the person I was in high school and still managed to echo things to the person I am now, as an adult, so I ended up powering right through this in a few quick sittings. This was such a big, loud book all hiding beneath soft, quiet wrapping, which is such a perfect way to describe both Xiomara as a character and her story. I’m so glad that I finally read this, and I can’t wait to read everything else Acevedo publishes from here on out.
Once Upon an Eid | Various 🔥🌑
This was utterly adorable. I just loved every single word of this so much, and I’m so glad that I finally bought & read it. Adorable is truly the only word I can think to describe it, too, and I hope with all my heart that this ends up in school libraries and becomes a widely read book. I don’t know a lot about Islamic or Muslim tradition, so this was a joy to read and get to know just a little more about the wonderful feeling of joy and love that the celebration of Eid brings about. There were so many different versions of the holiday, too, so many different types of families and situations, that I just felt like I was seeing a comprehensive wealth of people sharing the beauty of their faith. This was just a stunning book, and I can’t wait to read more by each of these authors.
The Silmarillion | J.R.R. Tolkien
ICYMI (literally how), I’m doing a readalong for the month of March. Here’s the announcement post & schedule, so if you’ve always wanted to read this, but it feels too daunting, now’s your time! Posts are going live Thursday every week, and the first one is up now. Also, I recognize that it took me exactly a month to read this, but it wasn’t because it was dragging by, but rather that I was trying to stretch it out to see how it would work for the readalong, which was fortuitous because I ended up shuffling the schedule a bit. Anyway, I loved this, but I’ve also spent four weeks writing about it, so check out the readalong if you’re curious about my thoughts!
Eyyyyy, we’ve got two monthly TBRs in separate posts in a row because it’s Women’s History Month! I had a lot of fun curating the books for next month’s reads, and I’m so excited to dive into these. My TBR post is here! I’ve also got an insane amount of books preordered (FOUR of them just arrived, unholy Satan), so I’m going to be busy trying to cram in three books per week, oh boy.
Briana @ Pages Unbound wrote a fantastic piece on why villain origin stories should contain unlikable characters because how else are we going to get to that eventual bad guy?
Who, me? Posting about my own post in my favorite posts section? YOU BETCHA BECAUSE IT’S THE GREAT SILMARILLION READALONG! I am absurdly excited about this readalong, to the point where I’m just going to be screaming about it all month long, so if you’ve ever wanted to read this chaotic book, now’s the time!
CW @ The Quiet Pond delivered on an excellent list of middle grades written by Black authors about Black children, and so many of these were not on my radar, and now my Goodreads is having a dance party.
I sat down one day halfway into February and decided that I was finally going to get to work on my book one revisions. I talked about where I was at with revisions at the beginning of the month, and the tl;dr of it is that I realized I had to go back and fix a plot line that I’d lazily ignored in the first book, but that was now necessary to help something in the end of the second book. I thought I’d take a week or so to go through it, so, in true Mary fashion, I did it all in one day. Really, it wasn’t that crazy given that I only have to do some serious work on four chapters and very light work on two others, and since I write with a limited third person POV, that meant I only had to jump into those specific chapters that were in that character’s POV. Overall, I added 4,520 words to the first book.
Once the first book revisions were done, though, it was time to jump back into the second book, and since I’d already started fixing one of the major issues and just ran into a roadblock toward the end, I didn’t have to go back through the whole thing. Instead, I finished off the last five chapters, adding a final 7,018 words to the second book. And now I’m on a bit of a break again! I’m not sure what I want to write next, and though there are two directions I’m kind of teetering in, I’m not sure which way I’ll end up swaying, so I’m just going to take the rest of the month to rest. I know I’ve been doing a lot of that lately with my writing, but I’ve also been doing a lot of brain work that’s been exhausting, so I’m taking it as it comes.
WHY AM I LIKE THIS
So I started Andrew’s book? Truthfully, I started Mason’s, got 1,746 words in, did a big swerve with my dreams one night (dreaming, for me, is like writing; I don’t actually do it, but something happens anyway, and I just wake up with all these weird and wild thoughts that I don’t remember where they came from), and ended up writing 14,265 words in one week. And, now that I’ve started it and have caught the Andrew bug (FINALLY!!!!!!!), well, this may be where we’re at. Admittedly, I didn’t continue writing for the rest of the month, but I had to go back to work (we were in quarantine for two weeks, thus why I got some writing done), and it was exhausting (in a good way), so I spent my nights reading.
What I’ve Been Watching
In college, my roommate & I decided that we were going to trade off movies, show each other our favorites. We got two whole movies in because she showed me Spirited Away, and I responded with Atonement. You don’t just introduce someone to Miyazaki with Spirited Away, particularly when that person does not watch anything animated that wasn’t created by Nickelodeon. It was an experience that I never intended to repeat, but as I got older and less stubborn about the things I liked, Erin started to play with the idea of reintroducing me to Miyazaki. We started with Kiki’s Delivery Service way back in September, and we’ve finally moved onto My Neighbor Totoro! It was truly adorable, and I’m so excited to continue on this journey and eventually get back to Spirited Away someday.
I also, in a completely expected turn of events, continued watching New Girl. I’m almost done with my rewatch, so you’ll be free of me talking about how much I love this damn show soon, but it was time for the fifth season! There is so much I forgot about this season, and it was just an utter delight to watch Winston & Aly unfold, to see Cece & Schmidt get married, and to keep wondering when the hell Nick & Jess were going to get back together.
I saw the Apollo 11 documentary in theaters when it originally released, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot for some reason lately, and I just needed a space movie the other day, and that’s the vibe I went with. It’s been a while since I read or watched something space-related, but this is definitely one of my favorite ones, particularly given that it’s definitely meant for people like me, who aren’t in it for the cinematic story (though this is cinematically beautiful, just not your usual moving documentary given how much it just relies on science talk), but really just want to watch something incredible happen with every little detail included.
Continuing with our Miyazaki journey with Whisper of the Heart came on exactly the right day. I’d just finished revisions on my second book, and I was utterly exhausted, to the point where I’d completely forgotten it was even movie night. When Erin suggested a movie about a writer and bookish love, I was all in, and this slice of life was just exactly what I needed. It was so relaxing and sweet, and it made all the chaos from the last few weeks of revision all the more worth it.
My mom is a big fan of movies, though she doesn’t usually have a lot of time to watch them. Since working from home, she’s been able to take her mornings a lot slower, so she’s been watching more, and I was really pleased to see she’d switched her channel to BET for the month of February, which meant that I’ve been able to rewatch bits and pieces of some really excellent Black-led movies. I managed to catch most of 42 one weekend, which is one of my favorite performances by Chadwick Boseman, and which obviously made me cry as all sports movies always do.
I accidentally started season six of New Girl? I honestly didn’t even know that’s what I was doing until I paused to go to the bathroom and came back to see a six under the episode title. And then, because I am obsessed with this show and will probably rewatch it again in a few years, I binged about half the season in one day? I mean, the episodes are 22ish minutes, so that’s not really that hard, but I had eight million other things to do, and, instead, I sat on the couch for five hours and just had a grand old time. My dad & I both cried over Cece & Schmidt several times, as well as cheered, very loudly, when Nick & Jess finally got back together. I only have one season left, and I’m pretty sure it’s a half season, so I’ll stop shouting about this soon.
I really needed a chill night for movie night, so I asked for a romcom, which meant we ended up watching I Care A Lot. This movie was straight up wild. It was like six different genres combined into one, but it worked so well. I went in without watching the trailer, too–I know, it’s insane, I don’t know how I’ve survived this long–so I had legit zero expectations, and this still managed to blow my mind. THAT ENDING?! Damn.
Since I’m officially writing my Grecian vampire story, I’ve got a timeline of movies that I want to watch to keep me in the zone. We started off with Clash of the Titans, so you can see that this is purely aesthetic and not at all research-based. And, not gonna lie, they did pretty well with keeping with the myths. Sure, there was some creative liberty, but, for the most part, there were some solid nods to the original myths, and the story of this was pretty excellent. It was totally what I expected out of an action movie made in 2010, and as long as you go into with the right expectations, it’s pretty fun.
Rounding out the month was The Boys in the Band for movie night. I honestly had no idea what it was about other than it was gay, even despite watching the whole trailer, so I was a little nervous about choosing it, but Erin & I ended up absolutely enamored with it. We usually talk quite a bit while watching movies, and we were dead silent for the first half as we tried to keep up with the Gilmore Girls-style dialogue, which was truly fantastic. It was a wild ride, and I desperately want to see it onstage someday. If you’re looking for an all-queer cast with incredible characters, do yourself a favor and watch this immediately.
What did I even do this month? Does anyone know?
OH I KNOW! I was in quarantine, that’s why I can’t remember. At the very beginning of the month, one of my coworkers tested positive, and it was like mass exodus. We found out, we disseminated tests, we got the heck out of there. We were in mandatory quarantine for two weeks, which was such a bummer. Like, way more than I’d expected. I started a new job last year in January, right at the beginning of the month, and it was so exciting. My previous job had dissolved into a very toxic environment that was making me cry more than it wasn’t, and I was starting to honestly not feel all that safe there anymore. Getting to change jobs was huge since I’d been at the previous company for four years, and the job before that was my first job ever, BJs, which I was at for eight years and loved more than anything. (Truthfully, if retail didn’t require nights & weekends, I would go back. I know it’s insane, but the people I worked with made all of it worth it.) All told, given the pandemic, I was able to spend just under three months at my new job. I worked remotely for the rest of the year, but after a truly amazing two months of getting to know these wonderful people, we were all sent home, and I didn’t see them again except for in brief passing when one of the would pop into the office. I had to go every day, but no one else was there, and it was just–lonely and exhausting.
There are a lot of reasons that I ended up leaving that job, ones that were similar in ways to why I left the one before it, and I don’t really want to get into it too much, just that when I started looking for another job at the end of 2020, I knew I couldn’t settle for anything less than perfect. I needed not only a good environment, but a job that I cared about, and both of those had been lacking for a while.
I’ll never forget my second interview with my current company. We had a quick phone interview before setting up an in-person one, and it was just–wow. I love these boys. I would fight anyone that as much as looked at them wrong. They are the sweetest, kindest, most hilarious people I’ve ever met, and I am so blessed to know them. They were so welcoming, just during that interview, when I was being given a tour of the space, and though I was realllllll nervous going into a company where I was the only woman, that quickly became something to not even consider. Y’all, they treat me like a queen. Granted, they’re scientists & engineers, and since I’m into the company as their only admin, I’m taking a lot off of their shoulders, so they’re understandably excited, but they could have reacted so differently, and instead, they’ve started showing me their experiments, asking me about my day, and coming to me for help. I love them so much. I forgot what it was like to work with people that I truly enjoyed and cared about. It’s been so long, and being able to come into the office every day, even when I have to wear two masks and my ears are starting to ache from the straps, even when I have to leave just to drink water, even when I have to turn on the damn heat in my car because we can’t eat inside–nothing dampens my joy of being here.
Wow, I did not intend for this to be a sudden ramble on how much I love my job, but here we are, and I think that explains pretty easily why I was sad to have to go remote for two weeks. In the nearly nine months that I was remote with my previous job, I almost never talked to anyone outside of my boss, and I was so afraid that the same sudden drop in camaraderie would happen here, but nope. I still got my daily 40-minute rant from my fave, my constant communication with my partner in crime, and pictures of bread and cats, hilarious reaction gifs, and all sorts of shenanigans.
Because I was home, I did a lot more yoga & baked this gorgeous loaf of bread! I ended up practicing yoga not just with my brother’s girlfriend & my sister, but kickboxing with my mom, more yoga with my dad, and a small virtual class with two of my friends. I finally got a sifter for my bread so I could dust my bread with cool designs, and Jolie opened up for in-café service. As soon as I got my second negative test back, I practically flew to Salem to pick up a quick $125 worth of tea and a few macarons, and it was wonderful.
The rest of the month was a lot of the same. I finally got to go back to work for the last week of February, which was insanely busy, given how much our production slows down when the boys can’t physically be in the lab. I started writing a new book, somehow read all five star books, and watched a bunch of really excellent movies. My birthday is next month, AS IS THE SILMARILLION READALONG!!!!!!!!, so here’s hoping it’ll be a good one.